Better blood sugar control boosts brain health in people with type 2 diabetes

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

In a new study, researchers found that controlling blood sugar levels improved the ability to clearly think, learn and remember among people with type 2 diabetes who were overweight.

But losing weight, especially for people who were obese, and increasing physical activity produced mixed results.

The research was conducted by a team at Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

The study examined close to 1,100 participants. One group of participants was invited to three sessions each year that focused on diet, physical activity, and social support.

The other group changed their diet and physical activity through a program designed to help them lose more than 7% of their body weight in a year and maintain that weight loss.

Cognitive tests—tests of thinking, learning, and remembering—were given to participants between 8 to 13 years after they started the study.

The research team theorized that people with greater improvements in blood sugar levels, physical activity and weight loss would have better cognitive test scores.

This hypothesis proved partially true. Reducing blood sugar levels did improve test scores. But losing more weight and exercising more did not always raise cognitive test scores.

The team says every little improvement in blood sugar control was linked to a little better cognition.

Lowering your blood sugar from the diabetes range to prediabetes helped as much as dropping from prediabetes levels to the healthy range.

More weight loss was either better or worse depending on the mental skill involved.

People who lost more weight improved their executive function skills: short-term memory, planning, impulse control, attention, and the ability to switch between tasks.

But their verbal learning and overall memory declined.

The results were worse for people who had obesity at the beginning of the study. That’s a ‘too little, too late’ type of message, the team says.

People with diabetes who let their obesity go too far, for too long may be past the point of no return, cognition-wise.

Increasing physical activity also generated more benefits for people who had overweight compared to those with obesity, the study shows.

One author of the study is Owen Carmichael, Ph.D., Professor and Director, Biomedical Imaging.

The study is published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Copyright © 2020 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.